Researchers Have Created a ‘Ballistic’ Drone that You Launch Out of a Cannon

A team of researchers from Caltech and NASA JPL have developed something they’re calling the ‘Streamlined Quick Unfolding Investigation Drone’ (SQUID): a “ballistic launching drone” that unfolds at altitude after you literally launch it out of a cannon.

You can see the SQUID in action in the video above, which shows how the drone dynamically unfolds and begins flying at altitude, and can even be launched out of the back of a truck going 50 miles per hour. The design seeks to make it both faster and safer (ironically enough) to launch a quadcopter, since you don’t need a takeoff pad, and the rotors don’t begin spinning until the drone is already at altitude.

Photo: Caltech and NASA JPL.

The first working prototype of the ballistically launched drone was presented at IROS in Macau, where the researchers demonstrated how the 530g drone could be launched out of a pneumatic baseball pitching machine, reaching a height of about 10m as the rotors extend and activate. The whole process from launch to full control only takes about 1 second.

The researchers propose this as a safer, quicker and more reliable method of launching a drone for, say, emergency response. They also envision the technology being used by a planetary rover, which could fire off an onboard drone and send it on a “reconnaissance” mission. You can learn more about the technology, how it was developed, and its potential applications here.

Admittedly, this ballistic launching tech wasn’t developed with consumer applications in mind, but we can’t help but wonder if a “ballistic camera drone” might ever come in handy for drone photographers in certain situations where a launch pad simply isn’t feasible. If nothing else, it would definitely qualify as fun.

(via IEEE Spectrum via Engadget)

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